Alejandro Ricoveri Alejandro Ricoveri - 6 months ago 58
Git Question

Ansible SSH private key in source control?

I have been developing an Ansible playbook for a couple of weeks, therefore, my experience with such technology is relatively short. Part of my strategy includes using a custom

for provisioning hosts throughout the inventory, however, such user will need its own SSH key pair, which would involve some sort of a plan for holding/storing its correspondent private key. On a production environment, this playbook would be cloned/pulled and run inside a certain playbook node whose role is to provision the rest of the infrastructure.

At first, I was thinking to just put that private key inside the playbook git repository, but I am having second thoughts about it nonetheless, mostly because of somewhat obvious security reasons and common sense around it, hence the reason I need to consult you about this matter.

With this set on the table, here are the follow-up questions:

  • In an Ansible-based development environment, is it sane/reasonable to hold a private SSH key in source control?

  • Would this practice be advised only for development environments whereas another local git branch inside the playbook node would be then used to hold the actual production SSH private key?

  • Would it be better to address this case scenario via Ansible Vault instead?, I have not ever used this before, but regardless of that I cannot yet tell whether this would be a proper case for using it.

  • In your experience, what would be your approach around this in a production environment?, what would it be considered as the best practice in this particular scenario?


It is an anti-pattern to keep any kind of plaintext secrets under revision control, SSH private keys included.

Instead, as you surmised, use ansible-vault to store the private key. I do so as follows.

Make a variable with the key:

ssh_key: |
key_file: /home/user/.ssh/id_rsa

Encrypt with ansible-vault:

ansible-vault encrypt <your_var_file>

And install the key:

- name: Ensure .ssh directory exists.
    dest: "{{ key_file | dirname }}"
    mode: 0700 
    owner: ansible 
    state: directory

- name: Install ssh key
    content: "{{ ssh_key }}" 
    dest: "{{ key_file }}"
    mode: 0600
    owner: ansible

Thanks to Allen Luce whose comment improved upon the original answer.